Varadkar: No plans to close retail and hospitality 'at this stage'

Varadkar: No plans to close retail and hospitality 'at this stage'

Shoppers taking advantage of Black Friday deals on Dublin's Henry Street: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there were no plans to impose further restrictions on retail and hospitality. Picture: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

There are no plans at the moment to impose further restrictions on retail and hospitality, according to the Tánaiste.

The news comes as the reintroduction of mandatory hotel quarantine is set to be agreed by the Government as early as Friday evening, prompted by the emergence of a new Covid variant in South Africa.

"Any restrictions that the Government decides on next Tuesday will be on foot of the advice that came from the Nphet meeting yesterday," Leo Varadkar said.

Nphet has advised that children aged between five and 11 should
avoid indoor events
such as nativity plays, and that masks be worn by nine-year-olds and over.

"There are no plans to close retail or hospitality or any businesses at this stage," Mr Varadkar said.

"It's not something that can be ruled out but the current epidemiological situation doesn't warrant that because there is growing evidence that we're seeing at least a stabilisation in cases and in the number of hospitalisations."

When asked whether parents should take their children to Christmas pantomimes this weekend, Mr Varadkar said it would be a personal choice for the parent.

"In terms of advice to parents, it is for parents to make their own decisions in relation to how they raise their families," he said.

"The advice from Nphet and from the Government is that we believe that when it comes to children aged between five and 11, because they're not vaccinated, they are now at high risk of getting this virus and we are advising children in that age group to reduce their number of social interactions. School is fine. Home is fine. But I think other forms of mixing probably isn't a good idea at this moment in time.

Mr Varadkar added: "I think it's important to understand the backdrop to the advice that we received from the CMO last night. The pandemic is changing. We're now a heavily vaccinated population and huge numbers of people have now received their third dose, over 700,000 people.

This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

"Roughly half the people in hospital at the moment are not vaccinated. Unfortunately, children aged between five and 11 cannot be vaccinated yet. So there are now more vulnerable than they would've been in the past and we have seen a very sharp increase in infections among children under 11 In the last couple of weeks, and that's the basis towards behind the CMO's advice."

In relation to the concerns about the new variant that has been identified in South Africa, Mr Varadkar said the Government doesn't yet know whether it is going to be a variant of concern but given previous experience with the Delta variant, he believes governments in the UK and Europe were slow to act.

"We want to make sure that we're not slow to act on this occasion. So we're going to act quickly," Mr Varadkar added.

Minister Donnelly and Minister Ryan are conferring at the moment and expecting to make an announcement on travel restrictions later in the day.

"They're examining additional restrictions that we can add in that would include, for example, restrictions around visas or mandatory hotel quarantine, and the possibility of requiring a PCR test as well for the vaccinated."

The legislation has lapsed for mandatory hotel quarantine and the Government will need to legislate next week to have it reinstated.

The Tánaiste added that the announcement of booster vaccines for all over 16 is "a big logistical operation" but he believes capacity can return to 250,000 vaccinations a week.

"It is going to take time, if we need to vaccinate another 4m people. So it'd be well into the spring I think before some people get their third dose, but we are of course going to prioritise those most at risk.

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